Huzzah for Easter! That incredibly pagan festival of fiery abundance and fertility, cracking through its thin patina of Christianity to ooze forth chocolatey love.
Easter fucking rocks. It’s a celebration of, among other things, the goddess Eostre [according to Bede] or Ostara [according to Grimm], whose name derives from a Proto-Indo-European expression of movement into the East, toward the rising sun. Think Ishtar (in Assyria), Ashtoreth (in Israel) or Astarte (in Greece) for more light/Spring/mother goddesses with similar sounding names.
In other words, it’s another thank-the-gods-for-this-burning-ball-of-gas festival. Bit like Xmas then.
Wikipedia currently says that Easter eggs are decorated as a symbol of Jesus’ empty tomb. Which is a bit daft, because
- Eggs aren’t usually empty
- If we were celebrating an empty tomb, wouldn’t we give people eggs with a hole in the shell?
- We have Easter egg hunts, with multiple eggs in locations unknown to the hunters, often outdoors. How is that relevant to a not-permanently-dead man with one cave whose location was known to the people who entombed him?
- At Christmas people have little models of a stable with a manger; wouldn’t we have little model empty caves at Easter if that was the point?
Instead, we have food. Why? Because food is much more important to human nature than any one dude who might have been dead for a while. In fact, the food part is so important that it’s preceded, in a lot of religious traditions, by a long fast without much food or other enjoyments. Just to make the big knees-up even more exciting, because you’ve been almost literally dying for it to happen for the past month.
Easter is a moveable feast. That’s not the same thing as a picnic; it means that the date of the festival moves around in the calendar. Why? Because it’s based on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox.
So, the date ties the sun and moon together, and the holiday is named for a feminine deity of movement toward the rising sun. And this date comes at a point when the moon itself looks like it’s moving toward the rising sun (because as the moon wanes, the moon and sun look closer and closer together in the sky seen from Earth). And this date comes at a point when the direction of the rising sun actually is due East (in summer and winter, it’s to one side or the other of East; it’s only due East at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes).
Still want to tell me this is all about Jesus? Only in the sense that Jesus was a symbol of the sun. No, I didn’t mean to put that the other way around. Eggs with their sunny yolks. They’re not empty caves, they’re caves full of warm gloopy sustenance for growing things. Bit like women then.
Which brings me, by a slightly sideways route, to the rabbits (although they are actually hares if you’re talking Easter symbology). Both rabbits and hares have big litters of baby bunnies in the spring, around the Equinox. Apparently lady hares can even get pregnant again while they’re still pregnant with a previous litter. That makes them a fairly powerful symbol of fertility.
Easter: if you ask me, it’s about fire, sex and food. Isn’t everything? We’re the ones who left the cave empty, but we brought all our primal baggage out with us.
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